The 3 Ingredients You Need To Make A Kahlua Substitute In A Bind

Kahlúa first became a thing in 1936 and was born in Mexico. It was the brainchild of Senior Blanco and Montalvo Lara, otherwise known as the Alvarez brothers (one was a food inventor, the other a chemist), and they came up with a sweet concoction of ingredients derived from their homeland of Veracruz, coffee and rum. 

Americans had their first sip of the Alvarez brothers' creation four years later. But it wasn't until the 1950s that the caffeinated elixir got the name we know today. Some say the word "Kahlúa" comes from the ancient Arabic slang for coffee, while others believe it's a Hawaiian term for coffee and lemonade. At any rate, it took off in America and would become a central component in popular cocktails like the Long Island Iced Coffee and White Russians. To this day, Kahlúa remains the top dog as the world's go-to coffee liqueur. There's even a National Kahlúa Day — February 27.  

So ... it's Saturday night, and you're craving an espresso martini nightcap. The basic recipe calls for ice, Kahlúa, vodka, espresso, and whole coffee beans to garnish. But there's one small problem. Someone drank all the Kahlúa and returned the empty bottle to the cabinet. "What kind of savage does that?" you ask yourself. While you plot your revenge against the Kahlúa mooch of the house, you stare into your open pantry and wonder if you can whip up a serviceable Kahlúa substitute. 

How to make a Kahlúa Substitute

Even though it's a simple blend of Arabica beans and rum, Kahlúa has a distinctive profile somewhat unmatched by its contenders. For store-bought, Kahlúa is your best bet, but desperate times call for desperate measures. You can opt for something like Grand Marnier or RumChata, but if you do, your drink will taste a little off with the fruity notes of those and similar liqueurs. For a suitable surrogate, you just need three ingredients — coffee, sugar, and vanilla extract.  

You will need to make sure the coffee is strong. So, double-brew it to be on the safe side. This method is exactly as it sounds. Start by brewing a standard pot of coffee. Then, instead of using water on the second batch of coffee, you'll brew a second pot with the aforementioned pot of brewed coffee. Then, take the double-brewed coffee and make a simple syrup from it by boiling it with sugar. After it has cooled to room temperature, stir in a bit of vanilla extract. While so far, this is a non-alcoholic version, you know what to do next: Grab the rum and get to mixing up those martinis. 

If the Kahlúa thief made off with your rum as well, you can make a similar version using vanilla vodka, instead, just know that this alternative might not offer the same sweet, molasses-y profile as the rum.